Archive for PEBKAC

Technical distort

It began with an email:

We would like to purchase this plugin from you and take complete owner ship [sic] of it and take away the stress from you.

We are trying to build one of the largest wordpress plugin companies and in doing this we are trying to purchase some rather large plugins like yours.

I am wondering if me and my team would be able to purchase this plugin from you and then take over the complete development of it and push out a new update to make it work better with the latest wordpress.

The author of that plugin thought about it; in the end, she said Yes, and the buyer sent $15,000 via PayPal.

And then this happened:

On June 21st, the first release of Display Widgets under the new author went out. Then on June 30th there was a second release, version 2.6.1, which included malicious code … which allowed the new plugin author — Mason Soiza, in this case — to publish spam content on any site running Display Widgets. There were approximately 200,000 sites using Display Widgets at the time.

Mr Soiza apparently did acquire other plugins for nefarious purposes. Some of those purposes:

Our team has assembled a lot of data on Mason Soiza from public sources. He has interests in a wide range of online business that include payday loans, gambling and “escort” services, among others.

He has been active on black hat forums and has been banned from “Black Hat World” (username LinkRocket) and from (username MasonSoiza). Soiza is active on Reddit as IIRR and moderates a subreddit called /r/paydayloansnowcouk.

Oh, and the current version of Display Widgets (2.7.0) has been thoroughly disinfected.

(Via Dan Gillmor.)

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Not even 27 yet

About 9:30 last night, my trusty IBM Model M keyboard started coughing up Questionable Characters. I’m not at all sure why, but I’m guessing its internals got slightly damp during area cleanup. Of course, I have a spare keyboard, but it’s a fairly recent clunker with weird feel and all the lovely Windows buttons I have so far been happy to avoid.

The only liquid near the desk at the time was water. It will dry overnight. I’ll put it back on the desk tomorrow or the next day to see if it has healed itself. (Somehow, this worked once before.)

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Grounds for expulsion

This gall admits of no mitigation:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Does anyone know how to wipe an iPad?

And why, you ask, would he want to do that?

My school issued me an iPad and I want to make it so that this iPad isn’t on their server. They block everything and I want to use an iPad that works with every site/app. Thanks.

In my idea of a perfect world, this jerk wouldn’t have been born, but I’m not in a position to be that picky. So let the school throw his butt on the street and send him a bill for $900 or so to cover the equipment he’s so eager to ruin.

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Subprime specimens

There are times when jail time just doesn’t seem like enough:

Sometimes I think the brutal tar and feathers practice of our forebears should be brought back into fashion. If anyone needed a ride on a rail it is the top executives of Equifax. Not for the massive security breach, but that they took the time to sell off some stock before they announced the breach, knowing the value of the company would take a deserving hit. These executives make capitalists everywhere look bad. I’m not advocating brutal mob violence, but I would give a small cheer of approbation in this case.

And should they survive this journey out of town, their credit scores should be permanently fixed at 499.


No wonder it’s taking so long

I mean, really:

Configuring Windows Updates, 3065% complete

I just hope it’s not running off battery power.

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Shat yourself

There’s always one, right?

Quickly followed by:

You. Do Not. Mess With. The Shat.

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You should have gotten sick 15 years ago

This pretty well speaks for itself:

Meanwhile, Microsoft implores you to get rid of that Stone Age stuff and install Windows 10. Like HotelBravo has.


As aspirational as it gets

To me, anyway, this is what the world needs to be:

Last month I said goodbye to the last of my technical support customers and took a new full-time contract. I’m surrounded by very nice people there. The commute is short and the parking is free. It’s a little hard not to get depressed when I’m sitting in my cube and seeing all my various journo-friends and journo-foes traveling the world and enjoying all the perks that the business can provide. The best I can tell myself is that Hawthorne started his adult career in the Custom-House and Melville spent his final years there. At the end of every day I do not worry about whether I sold my integrity cheaply or whether I failed to fight for the truth on any given subject. Such things have no meaning or relevance in the eternal late-fall twilight of that seventy-four-degree fluorescent office building.

I make no decision on any subject beyond the technical. There are a thousand dreams and ambitions in that building and there are people who are compensated to a truly stunning degree and there are people who spend their lunch hours in worried dialogue about bills and childcare but it matters not to me. I show up in the morning and I do my work and I leave and by the time the oil is warm in my CB1100 on the road home all thoughts of the job have slipped from my mind with that same light viscosity.

Okay, I could use a bit more stun in the wallet, but otherwise it’s an exercise in marking time, and fortunately I’m good at that.

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Trailing the pack

During the latter years of the Obama administration, it was a fairly common trope on the political right to assume that anything put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics had been cooked to a fare-the-well by a corps of faceless operatives, loyal to the Bureau first and the President second and the American people somewhere around fifty-fourth.

Which is not to say that the Trump administration did a great deal to change those apparent priorities. In fact, it might simply be that the Bureau, in our data-hungry age, is still just barely beyond the abacus. For example:

The BLS website uses JavaScript to bring you various features. JavaScript is a software technology needed on most web pages for buttons, online forms, and other content to work properly. Important: Disabling JavaScript will cause some sites to not work properly. Click on the name of your browser to view instructions for enabling JavaScript.

And here are the choices you get:

Browsers recommended by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Netscape, fercrissake? And version 7, released in 2002, at that?

More dramatic, perhaps: Firefox 1.5.x. The current stable release is 55.0.3.

And near the bottom of the page, this revelation:

Last Modified Date: August 14, 2008

Well, thank you, George W. Bush.

(Via Ellie Kesselman.)

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You can’t get here from there

Or maybe it’s the other way around:

There is no cure save to pull the plug. Or several plugs.


Breakup alert

You always wonder what someone like this is up to:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can i see private facebook timeline?

The correct answer, already given, is “What part of “private” don’t you understand?”

And so our forlorn questioner tries again:


And this time he proffers an excuse:

My wife blocked me from seeing her secondary profile.

Which leaves only one question: “Can this marriage be saved?” I’m thinking hell to the no.


A knock at lower volume

Last week, word got out that the Justice Department was seeking to force DreamHost, the home of several hundred thousand Web sites, this one included, to turn over any and all server records having to do with a leftish site called The company vowed to resist.

And here’s what’s happened since then:

After we went public with our concerns, the wave of public outcry from concerned citizens, judicial pundits, and commentators of all political backgrounds seemed to sink in. By Monday evening, the Department of Justice had relented and filed an amendment to remove some, but not all, parts of the data demanded in their warrant that we considered to be troubling.

We noted that the government took the relatively conspicuous step of filing its paperwork late Tuesday afternoon in what we can only speculate was an attempt to avoid further coverage by news media.

This late-in-the-game re-scoping of the request for data by the DOJ was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough. In fact, we filed a sur-reply [pdf] with the court in response [Wednesday] afternoon.

The public hearing took place yesterday, perhaps coincidentally while a DDoS attack was being mounted against all DH sites.

In the end, the judge agreed with a much-modified version of the motion to compel, and some of those modifications are serious:

The court has asked the DOJ to present it with a “minimization plan.” This plan is to include the names of all government investigators who will have access to this data and a list of all methods that will be used to comb through it in search of evidence.

The production of evidence from this trove of data will be overseen by the court. The DOJ is not permitted to perform this search in a bubble.

It is, in fact, now required to make its case with the court to justify why they believe information acquired is or is not responsive to (aka: “covered by”) the warrant.

The court will then seal any information that is acquired but then deemed to be “not responsive.” After that point, this information will not be available to the government without a court order.

Further, the Department of Justice is forbidden from disclosing the content of this responsive information to any other government agency. This is an uncommon step for the court to take, but it speaks to the sensitive content of this site and the First Amendment issues raised.

Comply with all these, said the court, and you can inspect what’s left. I have to figure that DOJ is not at all happy with this, but they’re not about to say so.

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Many more birds

I suspect this is not the only person who’s come to this conclusion:

I checked; it’s owned by the social-network site, not by the birders.


Should have gotten that prescription filled

Seriously demented-sounding individual wants to put up a video-sharing site:

What are the chances of it becoming like Youtube?

Update: What if i told you i have that “hook” store somewhere in my main computer? …

Now what would the chances be?

Update 2: What if i could even use that “hook” on other software i could create. Like maybe another Social Website like Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat. Yeah i could even use that “hook” on Theaters.

Update 3: Imagine the fortune i would have. Yes … i am not lying. I have the software and source code. I created it all by myself.

Problem is i don’t know where to even start. I know i would need investors. Then i would need to settle out somewhere. I live in Texas but i want to move out to California. Yeah. To where every Tech company goes. Silicon Valley. Wonder if Facebook or Google will come down chasing me. You know. To buy my software. I don’t want to sell it. I want to use it and make it grow.

Update 4: I could even use it on Holograms.

0_0 … i could make it to be the richest man in the world.

They probably know already. Or the Illumanti. Knows. They send me a message on my email. I never share my personal email. THEY SOMEHOW send me an email.

They know it could be worth Trillions of dollars.

Update 5: I don’t want the fame i just want the money and the company i am simple man.

Actually, they wanted you to learn how to spell “Illuminati” correctly, you dimwit.

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Unfillable position

I mean, literally, no one can meet this requirement:

Okay, maybe one:

They can’t afford you, Tay.

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In lieu of actual improvements

Why did I keep my car after the insurance company declared it totaled? Because it has most of the stuff I need, and hardly anything like this:

Since we are on an Interstate highway, I would like to engage the cruise control. I don’t want to have to keep watching the speedometer and adjusting my speed to accommodate every little change in the road’s incline. Yes, we are in Iowa, and Iowa is very flat, but even the slightest grade can affect the car’s speed. I am pushing the envelope on what the cops will tolerate and I don’t want [to] push it too far. It would be easy to do. The road is flat and straight and the speedometer goes to 160 MPH.

There is a little mini-control-panel on the right spoke of the steering wheel and the top right button is labeled CRUISE. I push it and little green CRUISE word appears on the instrument panel. I try pushing several of the other buttons to see if I can set the speed, but nothing happens.

The upper left button appears to be a stack of paper (pages?) and pushing it causes the center display between the speedometer and the tachometer to change. I think there are four pages. Pushing this button allows you to cycle through these pages. Eventually I figure out that you can get the cruise control to engage only if you are on the correct page. I don’t know whether this is a feature or a bug.

In general, that sort of thing is considered a feature by its developers and a bug by those who must endure it out in the Real World™.

And this is pretty much the way cruise control works on my car, but the speed is set by accelerating to the desired speed and pushing a button marked SET. The sort of people who want the dashboard to answer their damn phones do not want a button marked SET. For them, even a ’17 Hyundai Sonata, which can be worried up beyond $30,000 with enough features bugs, is insufficiently bedecked with electricks.

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Knock, knock

Who’s there? Why, the Feds, of course:

For the past several months, DreamHost has been working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process, including a Search Warrant [pdf] seeking information about one of our customers’ websites.

At the center of the requests is, a website that organized participants of political protests against the current United States administration. While we have no insight into the affidavit for the search warrant (those records are sealed), the DOJ has recently asked DreamHost to provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors.

Regular readers may recall that DreamHost has been bringing my site to you since the last day of 2001. So my interest in this case is not entirely theoretical.

Chris Ghazarian, our General Counsel, has taken issue with this particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution.

The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website. (Our customer has also been notified of the pending warrant on the account.)

That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.

I’m pretty sure I’d be on the opposite side of the fence from the site’s operators and most of its users. But that doesn’t matter. This does:

The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government.

We intend to take whatever steps are necessary to support and shield these users from what is, in our view, a very unfocused search and an unlawful request for their personal information.

The DOJ has appealed to the D. C. Superior Court for an order to force DreamHost to turn over all this data; DreamHost has filed arguments in opposition, and a hearing will be held Friday.

Addendum: DreamHost co-founder Dallas Kashuba is interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Update, 17 August: The hearing has been moved to the 24th. It is open to the public.

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Verifying the conspiracy

Only just started last night:

Twitter blocks a tweet critical of Google

Twitter, like Google, evidently has no use for that “Don’t be evil” crap.

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A bookmark for retainer

This is billed as “The World’s First Robot Lawyer”:

And here’s the guy who came up with the idea:

How this came about, by Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds:

A lawyerbot called Do Not Pay helps people contest parking tickets. In London and New York, it helped people overturn 160,000 tickets in its first 21 months. Its creator, 19-year-old London-born Stanford student Joshua Browder observed: “I think the people getting parking tickets are the most vulnerable in society. These people aren’t looking to break the law. I think they’re being exploited as a revenue source by the local government.”

There’s not much doubt about that. Local governments pretend it’s about safety, but use traffic fines for revenue. Those fines fall hardest on poor people, for whom a $150 fine is a financial disaster and for whom an appearance in court is frightening and awkward. Often, a few citations, with interest and penalties accruing, can be the beginning of a downward spiral leading to bankruptcy or jail.

This, of course, validates the observation by Derek Bok:

“There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.”

Amen to that.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Dripping with adolescent angst

This is what happens when you have more technical skills than social skills, but not a hell of a lot of either:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How can I retrieve an instagram dm conversation I SWIPE deleted - read desc?

And he thought he was so damn clever, too:

I really need to retrieve it so I can unsend some stuff. I swiped deleted the conversation and then realized it won’t delete on there end. I tried searching their name to get the conversation back and it didn’t work. how can I get the conversation now?! I need to unsave stuff. when I started a new conversation with that person everything was gone. I just need to clear our conversation on her end and mine. she’s inactive but stuff is going to happen so I need to clear it. HELP

Sorry, Charlie. Life doesn’t give you do-overs. It’s probably just as well you learn that now and get it over with.

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It speaketh, yet it understandeth not

The National Weather Service runs a network of FM radio stations, about a thousand of them, in the general vicinity of 162.475 MHz. Most of them are totally automated, with a computerized voice “reading” the scripts. Some of them sound better than others. One we had here for a while has intonation not unlike Arnold Schwarzegger’s, and “Arnold” is occasionally still pressed into service when the “regular” voice, which wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on NPR, isn’t working correctly. There is one ongoing problem with the “regular” voice, though: it can’t distinguish between “winds,” what the guy does with his wrist watch now and then, and “winds,” which will blow over your rubbish bin at 60 miles per hour. The former word, of course, is unlikely to be part of a weather forecast, but it will show up more often than you’d think.

Which is not to say that automated voices not run by the government are any better. This standard-issue heartwarming story turned up on YouTube with a fake female voice:

The text appears to be identical to what’s here, though the fake female is evidently baffled by the call letters of that Houston television station: she renders “KHOU” as “coo.” And her keeper isn’t the most articulate, either:

I make story videos, everytime and everywhere. Subscribe this channel for new stories :)

Fourteen thousand subscribers in less than a year. Evidently some people are a lot less bothered by this than I am.

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Rectangular banshee

About 10:30 Thursday night, my Uninterruptible Power Supply suffered an interruption, and it announced that incident with some of the most godawful noises on earth that didn’t actually involve injured elephants. “Replace battery,” the blinking red light demanded.

There are eight outlets on this UPS, but only five were in use. Now: what do I have that will give me five outlets late at night?

The answer is PowerSquid. Doesn’t actually have surge protection in this model, but I can shop for that later.

And as I got the last device connected, the Oklahoma City Dodgers game (KGHM radio) went weirdly silent. And no, the radio is on a wholly different circuit.

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From the Tumblr Terms of Service:

No individual under the age of thirteen (13) may use the Services, provide any personal information to Tumblr, or otherwise submit personal information through the Services (including, for example, a name, address, telephone number, or email address). You may only use the Services if you can form a binding contract with Tumblr and are not legally prohibited from using the Services.

A binding contract? A lot to expect from a 13-year-old.

In slightly smaller print, on a slightly darker background:

You have to be at least 13 years old to use Tumblr. We’re serious: it’s a hard rule, based on U.S. federal and state legislation. “But I’m, like, 12.9 years old!” you plead. Nope, sorry. If you’re younger than 13, don’t use Tumblr. Ask your parents for a Playstation 4, or try books.

So there.


Buy for me the reign

There is no shortage of mountebanks who offer to make you a veritable king in the land of Google. This one hit the spam trap t’other day, and spilled rather a lot of beans:

LinkLifting isn’t your typical Web optimization software program. In actual fact, it isn’t software program in any respect. As a substitute, LinkLifting is a completely managed service carried out by our crew of skilled Website positioning professionals, all of whom have in depth expertise working with small companies and massive manufacturers alike.

Here’s how LinkLifting works. All you’ll want to do is enter your web site and goal Web optimization key phrases or phrases within the kind above. Our system will routinely recommend probably the most related pages of your web site for promotion, in addition to recommending a month-to-month funds to realize your outcomes.

On daily basis, our crew will scan out huge database of tens of hundreds of top of the range donor web sites to seek out efficient backlinking alternatives. As quickly as we discover a match on your webpage, we’ll add a robust, extremely related backlink pointing straight to your goal web page.

There’s no want so that you can ship e mail after e mail to webpage house owners and bloggers

There’s no have to pay an Search engine marketing company enormous charges for a fraction of the outcomes

There’s no want to fret about your web site by no means transferring up within the rankings

There’s no farking command of the English language. And these people want to run database searches for you? They couldn’t find a fart in the restroom of a Taco Bell.

As a substitute of spending your money and time on Search engine optimization methods that don’t ship outcomes, you earn nice hyperlinks from extremely related web sites at a fraction of the associated fee you’d pay an Search engine optimization company for decrease high quality, much less related hyperlinks.

High quality backlinks are the singular most essential component for profitable Search engine marketing. Regardless of how nice your on-web page content material is perhaps, with out nice backlinks, it’s by no means going to rank for extremely aggressive, beneficial search key phrases that may generate leads and gross sales for your small business.

Our hyperlink constructing service takes the effort and time out of constructing hyperlinks to your webpage, letting you spend your time working your small business as a substitute of constructing hyperlinks manually. Simply create a LinkLifting process, set your price range and watch as we report each day in your website’s Search engine optimisation progress.

This drivel was linked to someone’s Fiverr page, which can mean only one of one thing: some shlub is getting paid a pittance to spam it all over the universe. If you see it, be sure to delete it if you can, and laugh at it if you can’t.

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A big machine in the sky

Email yesterday brought this blatant pitch:

I just finished going through your article here:
Thanks for the resource!

All 1200 (since 2006) articles? Wow. But I know better than that.

My colleague Ritika recently put together a pretty comprehensive piece on web hosting. There is a ton of information out there; our guide was designed to cut through the noise a bit.

The post is here:

Would you consider linking to it in the article of yours I mentioned above? I saw you linked to in there, so I figured I’d see if you’d link to mine as well. Perhaps your visitors find it helpful, but hey, it’s up to you.

Well, yeah, since I write those guys a check every year to keep this place running.

That said, though, I did read the article in question, and it’s actually a pretty decent overview of the state of the affordable Web-hosting art — through its fall-2016 publication date, anyway — which justifies giving them a link.

As for “colleague Ritika,” she won me over with this observation of hers on her own site:

Sunflowers are to Van Gogh what romantic comedies are to Hugh Grant. There are other artists who have done the same thing, but it just doesn’t look quite right.

Heck of an opening. Of course, if you’re supporting yourself with your writing, you need a heck of an opening just about every single time.

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No place for a MAC address

And that place is on a coffeemaker:

The important thing here is, that no computers that are infected are connected to the internal network. So they don’t instantly get infected again after reimaging.

Everything is going well, all the computers are re-imaged and the monitoring system is back up and running. I’m about to close this case when one by one they start getting infected again. Which should be impossible, because the PLC’s cannot be infected by this malware, and the monitoring system consists of 4 computers and he re-imaged them all.

So at this point, the operator mentions that he could really use some coffee. So I tell him it’s ok for him to get some coffee while I try to figure out why these computers keep getting reinfected. Only then he tells me, he wasn’t able to get coffee, because all the coffee machines were showing the same ransomware attack message.

So long story short, the coffee machines are supposed to be connected to their own isolated WiFi network, however, the person installing the coffee machine connected the machine to the Internal control room network, and then when he didn’t get internet access remembered to also connect it to the isolated WiFi network. The operator contacted us about his monitoring system not working but forgot to mention the coffee machines were showing the same error.

The external company responsible for managing our coffee machine got an angrily worded letter for getting all those machines infected, and all their clients were without working coffee machines for a couple of days.

Coffee is too important to entrust to a network.

(Via @InternetofShit.)

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A site even older than mine

By not quite a year, in fact.

Today, it’s “You’re kidding. They sell books too?”

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The fastest man alive

Oh, I’m sure he can be beaten in the 100-yard dash by any number of folks, but I must praise this guy for being attentive to his customers.

Every post that comes out of here also comes with a tweet beginning with the phrase “Newly posted.” This process is automated by a plugin called WP to Twitter. I find the process sufficiently arcane that I felt I’d be better off not debugging things myself, and so I signed up for the Pro version, which costs some money but will presumably get the attention of the programmer.

At 3:00 Saturday I turned in a trouble ticket: at some point the Pro functions had been disabled, perhaps because I’d done something dumb, and could you please help?

At 3:02 his autoresponder, well, autoresponded.

At 3:12 he answered back with the solution. Turned out it was at his end: he’d released an updated version, albeit with something awry. He noticed it quickly enough, but anyone who’d downloaded the update during that brief period got the bad package. “Just download a fresh copy and install,” he said, and that was the end of that.

Our hero here is Joe Dolson of Accessible Web Design. He has several plugins besides this one. I’d recommend anything he does.

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Rather familiar

Nawaz Sharif has served as the 12th, 14th, and (currently) 20th Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We may assume that he don’t like this:

The Panama Papers — a collection of documents leaked from off-shore law firm Mossack Fonseca in 2014 — included documents that appeared to indicate that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had accumulated a substantial fortune far beyond what he and his family legitimately earned. The Pakistani Supreme Court set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to determine where the money came from. Sharif produced documents to show that the money had been legitimately acquired, but the authenticity of those documents was in question. Daughter Maryam Sharif appeared to have signed forged documents to try to cover up the truth.

And how was the truth of the matter ascertained?

How was the forgery detected? A document purporting to have been written and signed in 2006 used Microsoft’s Calibri font. While Calibri was originally designed in 2004 and was available in betas of Windows Vista and Office 2007 throughout 2006, it didn’t actually ship in a stable version of Windows or Office until 2007. As such, its use in a document dated 2006 is extremely suspect. It’s not impossible that, for some reason, beta software was used to prepare the documents. But it is more than a little unlikely.

At least no one’s claiming they were done on an IBM Selectric.

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Dumbass with the heart of a smartass

The operative word, of course, is “ass,” and this is what this particular ass wants: “I’m not getting the answers I’m looking for …?”

The last time I asked these questions, everybody ignored them. I asked these questions so people could answer them, not ignore them.

I’d ignore this jerk myself, but I feel the need to make an example of someone.

Sometimes when I’m using my computer, it’ll freeze, and I’ll get a caption that says “A script on this page may be busy, or it may have stopped responding. You can stop the script now, open the script in the debugger, or let the script continue.” This caption features buttons that say “Continue”, “Debug Script”, and “Stop Script.” What does this mean? What do I do when this happens? By the same token, sometimes my computer will freeze, and I’ll get a caption that says “Not Responding.” Can I get a repairman to come in and change things around somehow to where these things never happen again until the end of time? Thank you in advance for your answers.

Jeebus. It means what it says it means: a script is not responding properly, and these are your options. You have no others. And pretty much everyone who’s gotten beyond Windows 3.1 has seen this before and has learned to deal with it, though not exactly happily.

Then again, this is how this dimwit identifies himself:

I hate being single

You got to figure he’s been living with that for a long, long time.

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